Kathleen Till of Leesburg, Ga., has just spent 30 minutes admiring the hand- and machine-made works at the Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum in Carrollton. She is one of four members of the Wiregrass Quilt Guild near Albany who have ventured here from southwestern Georgia.
Till, who has been quilting since 2004, said the creations she has seen will make her a better quilter. And she hopes that quilts from her guild may someday be shown at this Museum.
Six weeks since it opened to fanfare and public acclaim on Sept. 15, the museum has carved out a niche as a distinctive West Georgia destination. More than 160 paying customers — most from out of town — have come through the facility’s doors.
“We’ve had visitors from three foreign countries: France, Germany and Switzerland,” boasted Beverly Hammack, a member of the Quilt Museum board. “People have come from 13 states and from 24 cities other than Carrollton. I’m just as excited as can be.”
Florence Donnan of Albany, who has been quilting for 37 years, said she and her friends from the Wiregrass Guild heard about the new museum weeks ago.
“We were in the area and we really wanted to get by and see it and there are some beautiful quilts here,” she said.Another group member, Dianne Morgan of Albany, a quilter since 1980, said the visit has helped her learn some new techniques that will improve her work.
The fourth member of the Wiregrass Guild group, Margaret Kimbrel of Leesburg, a quilter since 2000, is also taken by the place.
“It’s a small scale but I love it. Please continue this, do not let it die.”
That’s exactly what the Carrollton quilt group is doing. The museum board reports several financial contributions to the facility, including a single $1,000 donation. Membership has risen to 39 members. And the board is hoping to receive a $10,000 grant from the Community Foundation of West Georgia to help it continue to grow.
“We’re here, we have a physical place and we have a way to go,” said Hammack. “But it took the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Ky., 30 years to grow.”
Another board member says the Carrollton facility has already made its mark. Jane Kingsley is one of the pioneers who worked for 14 years to bring a quilting museum to West Georgia.
“I think we’ve proved to the powers-that-be in Carroll County that we will be a true tourist attraction,” Kingsley said. “For a single room, where the quilts are jammed together, we are getting a great reaction. We’re not just little old ladies sitting around quilting and gossiping. This will be something that attracts visitors and business to the town.”
The museum group thinks it may have a new weapon as it plans future growth. It has announced the addition of a new board member, Loy Howard, CEO of Tanner Health System. The board hopes his extensive community and regional contacts will benefit the facility.
As it moves forward, Hammack said board members are learning how to run a business as well as exhibit works of art. She said the museum is already branching out beyond its small space on Bradley Street. The museum will exhibit four or five quilts on Nov. 9 at the next West Georgia wine tasting, which will coincide with the soft opening of the Carrollton train depot, just across the street from the Quilt and Textile Museum.
The museum will hold a training session for new volunteers, on October 31 at Tanner Hospital in Carrollton.
The museum itself will be changing exhibits in about a month. From Dec. 1 through Jan. 26, it will feature a new set of works titled “Not your Grandmother’s Quilts.”
Two other Museum visitors have driven down from Dallas, Ga., to see the current exhibit. Dennis and Cytrina Mitchell were admiring the intricate work in the quilts on display.
“I love it,” Cytrina Mitchell said. “All the different techniques, you can see different peoples’ eyes and how they created their quilts.”
Although she has been quilting for three decades, she laughed when asked when one of her quilts might be displayed here.
“Never,” she finally admitted.
The museum board hopes people like the Mitchells will keep coming to Carrollton to enjoy future exhibitions.
“Not a day has passed that we haven’t had somebody or some group come in to visit,” said Kingsley, who’s confident that will continue and that the Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum will be part of the fabric of West Georgia for years to come.